“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18: 6)
Prior to this verse, Jesus has brought a little child into the midst of the adult disciples, who have had the audacity to ask him who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He speaks gently of the humility and sweetness of a child, but then he presents this image, disturbing because of its stark contrast to what he has just said. It is better for a person to die a violent death than to give a little child a reason to stumble in his or her belief.
These words may refer to anyone who would lead a child down the wrong path. They seem, however, to be a particular indictment against all those adults who claim to be Christian but who live their lives in ways that make children, as they grow older, reject faith in God. Since these adults represent the institutionalized church to the little ones who watch them, these children grow to be teenagers who feel that if these people are the church, then the church isn’t worth much. And in rejecting the church, they reject God.
Wondering: How can we be an example of how Christ would have us behave in the world? As we wander through the Gospels with Christ, what is he teaching us by his own example?